How to travel cheap 1 month in Southeast Asia

Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Ellen

Do you really want a travel lifestyle in (early) retirement? If yes, keep reading.

How much does your household spend each month? If the answer is more than $2,100 a month (for everything), keep reading.

Do you want to solve the mystery of how to travel to awesome places on Earth for less money than you are spending at ‘home’? If yes, keep reading.

The short answer: slow travel.

The longer answer: slow travel on a budget with planning.

The detailed answer: take a look at our expenses during a month of our travels.

How to travel cheap 1 month in Southeast Asia

For this example, I’m going to use November 2019. We were in Indonesia and the Philippines. We have shared many other expense breakdowns for month-long stays in other parts of the world — with a similar budget. (Montenegro, Portugal, Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico, to point out a few to our new readers.)

Our breakdowns often are for stationary living — what it cost to live one month in Chiang Mai, for example.

But the month of November 2019 was unusual in that we bounced around. Ubud, Bali, Komodo, Sanur in Indonesia, to Cebu and Liloan in the Philippines. Despite that – we still know how to travel cheap 1 month in Southeast Asia.

Our total expenses: $2,169.

For two people, for one month, and we saw some amazing places.

The breakdown on how to travel cheap 1 month in Southeast Asia

bar graph of expenses; housing = $544; restaurants = $452; travel = $365; excursions = $250; supplies = $204; charity, gifts = $133; local travel = $128; groceries = $93.


This is always our highest expense. We spent $544 on housing in November. That’s pretty good since we stayed a few hotels along the way. Usually, we rent by the month on Airbnb for a discount and we rent shared apartments with private bathrooms now and then.

As early retired budget travelers, we don’t want to house sit or pet sit. We are not interested (right now) in being responsible for any other souls or anyone else’s property.

That said, you could cut down housing expenses by house sitting. Just don’t forget to factor in membership costs on websites that connect sitters with owners, and the transportation cost to get to the property. Couch surfing also can be a great option to cut housing costs, for people who like to stay with locals.


In Southeast Asia, food is so cheap it is often less expensive to eat out than to shop and prepare meals yourself. But from a health standpoint, we still like to maintain majority control of what we put into our bodies, and so we still often eat at home. That’s easy to do when we rent apartments with kitchens for a month.

For us, the restaurant category includes beer for Tedly, even if it’s takeout beer for ‘home’. I don’t drink, or this would be much higher. The concept of how to travel cheap 1 month will be difficult for anyone who needs expensive liquor or a lot of beer.

Travel categories

Airfare and long-distance bus trips are simply labeled “travel.” We bought airfare before November, but I’m including that here to give you an exact accounting of what our travel cost.

We paid $128 in June for two one-way tickets from Bali, Indonesia, to Cebu, Philippines, on Cebu Air. We paid $237 in September for two round-trip tickets from Bali to Labuan Bajo, near the Komodo National Park on Batik Air.

The key to nabbing those low prices was – again – our slow travel lifestyle. Our dates were flexible. We were not thinking in “vacation mode” with set dates.

“Local travel” is for buses, ride-sharing, short ferry rides, such as from Bali to Nusa Penida. We ride public transportation as often as we can to save money. After all, we don’t have to rush anywhere as early retirees.


November was a busy sightseeing month for us: Ubud – the tourist mecca, Komodo National Park – the only place on Earth with dragons, Nusa Penida – the “little Bali.”

As slow, lifestyle travelers, we had time to investigate ways to save money on those excursions. For example, we’ve already shared about how little it cost us to visit the incredible Komodo dragons. All we had to do was a little searching and asking around — and we had plenty of time to do it.

a pie chart with the percentages of expenses on how to travel cheap 1 month in southeast asia

Supplies, charity and gifts

“Supplies” are expenses that don’t fall into other categories, like ibuprofen and shaving cream, laundry service. The supplies category was higher than normal in November because we bought a few things for our long Liloan stay: Christmas lights, a coffee maker, a used bicycle, a few clothing items, a SIM card and data. You could easily make cuts here.

The charity and gifts category is also higher than usual. We usually try to spread it out more throughout the year. You could easily cut here, too. In fact, we enjoy donating our time, since we aren’t made of money. It’s a way we create wonderful experiences and build friendships in the communities we visit.

Health care note

Some months, health care is one of our biggest expenses since I got breast cancer in 2018. Since then, I’ve seen doctors twice a year for checkups and prescriptions. During those months with health checks, we usually don’t take many “excursions.” Therefore, we still will balance out to around $2k those months, if we stay on track.

Similarly, in months we have no large health care expenses or excursions, we look at airfare purchases.

Mystery solved on how to travel cheap 1 month in Southeast Asia!

That’s it — the mystery of how we do this has just been solved! Our secret tricks, and our total spending, revealed to you, dear reader, so you can see that it is possible to live this way – and live well!

The average American household spends nearly $5,650 a month on housing, food, transportation, health care, and the rest of it. So if you might already be spending way more than what we spent traveling for one month.

When viewed this way, the question returns: Do you really want a travel lifestyle?

We hope you liked “How to travel cheap 1 month in Southeast Asia.”

See some of our other budget breakdowns for inspiration:

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